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Water barrels safe for vegetable gardens?

Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 4:54 pm
by PVFarm
Hi everyone!
I hope you all had a safe and fun July 4th weekend!
I am curious......I have one of those 275 gal (white w the metal frames) water barrels for rain water. The barrel was originally used to transport soy bean oil. It has been rinsed out...there's only a small amount of residue in it. Is this safe to use to water my vegetable gardens? I'm not sure if any oil residue will harm, or 'clog' the veggie roots! Thank you in advance for any and all help!!
Have a great day!

Re: Water barrels safe for vegetable gardens?

Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:52 pm
by PaulF
The University of Nebraska Extension services publish "NebGuides" on a variety of topics. During the Master Gardener classes your question was asked and answered this way (taken from the rain barrel NebGuide:

Rainwater collected in rain barrels is recommended for non-potable (water that is not drinking water quality and is not safe for consumption) uses, such as watering ornamental plants. Municipal drinking water often can contain sodium or other chemicals that can lead to plant health issues, while rainwater is free of these chemicals.
Rainwater from rain barrels is not recommended for watering fruit and vegetable gardens. It is not suitable for humans or pets to consume, or for uses that include direct body or food contact, such as in a child’s swimming pool or for bathing, hair washing, or washing produce.
Concerns with rain barrel water safety stem primarily from bird droppings and animal waste deposited on roof- tops. Bacteria and other disease-causing organisms could be picked up by rainwater flowing over rooftops.
Another safety concern are chemicals in roof runoff that could come from asphalt roofing, redwood or cedar shakes, treated wood shingles, roofing materials contain- ing asbestos, lead solder or lead-based paints, metals such as zinc from galvanized flashing, moss killers, and other sources. Deposition of industrial pollutants and/or herbicide drift on rooftops also may be a potential issue depending on where you live.
While bacteria and chemical deposition are not con- sidered major concerns for non-potable uses of collected rainwater, they provide sufficient reasons not to use rain barrel water for potable uses. Specialized filtering and treat- ment are required for rainwater to be suitable for drinking, cooking, bathing, or other direct human contact.

Re: Water barrels safe for vegetable gardens?

Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 8:36 pm
by imafan26
The board of water supply in my city makes the same recommendation to use the catchment water on ornamentals and the lawns and to use potable water for the gardens.

While rainwater is clean, the first few minutes of rain will pick up dirt, and pollen and other pollutants in the air. The rain is coming off a roof where birds have been pooping, roofing material can be washing off with the rain and getting into the barrel The barrel is sitting outside and mosquitoes can get in and algae can grow especially if the water remains stagnant in the barrel for a long time.

Re: Water barrels safe for vegetable gardens?

Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 9:00 pm
by applestar
Does any of these agencies make any distinctions about type of building material of the roof, age, duration of rainwater storage?

What about method of delivery -- soaker/direct to soil drench, sprinkler/overhead, etc. Seedling plants, root veg vs leaves and fruits, Raw consumption vs cooked? Maybe make distinction like pesticides and herbicides?

Bird poop? They are everywhere including fresh and undiluted directly shat on the plants themselves..... Obvious common sense applies as to washing food crops....

I think I would be more concerned about building material pollutants. -- Rainwater from the roofs eventually make their way down to the earth and runoff into the waterways whether stored temporarily in the rain barrels or not. They should be regulating the roofing material if this is a concern. What are they not telling us?

Re: Water barrels safe for vegetable gardens?

Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 9:15 pm
by applestar
I'm not in the right frame of mind to read through this so I only skimmed it so far, but this might be a place to start:

Rainwater harvesting safe roof, safe gutter materials selection
https://www.thecenterforrainwaterharvest ... tters2.htm

Re: Water barrels safe for vegetable gardens?

Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 11:28 pm
by jal_ut
PVFarm, Hi and welcome to the forum. My take on your question is: Yes, it will be fine to use the tank. Have a great garden.

Re: Water barrels safe for vegetable gardens?

Posted: Sat Jul 09, 2016 6:51 am
by imafan26
In my area older roofs have lead and asphalt which could be harmful. On the Big Island, many homes have catchment and aluminum roofs with lead solder. They also have a problem with rats and leaves getting in the gutters and ending up in the tank along with the roaches, rate feces and urine. The people there were told they could use the water for washing purposes but most of them now buy bottled water for consumption. The problem was aggravated by the 5 year drought on the Big Island which meant that the tanks ran lower than normal and wasn't getting flushed out as well.